Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis is the scientific name given to scabies, a microscopic critter sometimes simply called the human itch mite. Though itchy and unpleasant as its name suggests, scabies can affect anyone and is easily treated with cream from your doctor. To prevent reinfection during treatment, however, you do need to do some housecleaning when you or a family member starts scabies treatment.
Scabies Cleaning Don'ts
There are two things you should definitely not do when cleaning your home after a case of scabies. The first is panic. A scabies diagnosis is admittedly unpleasant, but this is not a difficult problem to solve. Don't rush out and buy a bunch of bug bombs or harsh cleaning chemicals, as these can cause larger problems than the scabies mites themselves.
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The second thing you mustn't do is wait. You'll want to coordinate the day you clean your house with the day treatment begins. This prevents bedding or furniture from reinfecting someone who is undergoing scabies treatment and vice versa. The cleaning process isn't hard, but the timing is important.
Despite what many well-meaning people and websites may tell you, you need not treat hard surfaces in your home. Advice for cleaning after scabies often includes disinfecting hard surfaces, like countertops, bathtubs, and doorknobs, but this is not necessary. Scabies mites don't live in these places. Scabies is also a uniquely human problem, so there is no need to treat your pets. You should wash their bedding, however, since scabies mites could transfer to their bedding after a good snuggle with their favorite human.
Things You'll Need
Plastic trash bags
Vacuum or steam cleaner
How to Clean Your House After a Case of Scabies
1. Begin Treatment
The first step in cleaning your home is to visit the doctor and begin scabies treatment. If you suspect scabies, you may be tempted to clean your home as soon as possible. This urge is understandable, but cleaning before scabies treatment begins increases the likelihood that the mites may leave the affected person and recontaminate the home. Wait to clean until after the necessary treatment is prescribed, acquired, and used for the first time.
2. Do the Laundry
Strip the bedclothes from every bed in your home, even if only one person was diagnosed with scabies. Heat kills scabies, so wash the bedding in hot water and then dry it on high heat. Ideally, you want the items to reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to your bedding, be sure to wash all throws, clothing, towels, and other washable items that have potentially had contact with the scabies within the last three days. You don't need to wash unworn clothing stored in closets and drawers, but you should wash hampers and laundry baskets in hot, soapy water.
Some items you can't wash, like pillows or stuffed animals, can still be run through the dryer on a high heat cycle to kill the mites. If you have dry-clean-only items, the dry cleaning process will kill scabies. Make sure you tell your dry cleaner what you're dealing with, however, so they can make sure they don't spread the problem to someone else.
If you encounter soft items you're not comfortable machine washing or drying, place them in a plastic trash bag and seal it tightly. Scabies mites can only live two or three days when they're not on a human. Placing your sealed bag in a closet for a few weeks will contain and kill any mites that may be present.
3. Vacuum or Steam Clean
While you're waiting for your washer and dryer to work their magic, it's time to vacuum your home. For a thorough cleaning, vacuum all of the soft surfaces in your home including all of the mattresses, furniture cushions, draperies, and carpets. You want this to be a thorough cleaning, so think spring and move furniture so you can vacuum underneath it. It's also a good idea to vacuum your car and wipe down car seats.
If you have a steam cleaner, you can set it to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit and use it instead of your vacuum cleaner. A vacuum is adequate, however, so you don't have to rent a steam cleaner if you don't have one.
When you're finished vacuuming, take the vacuum cleaner outside. Take the bag or HEPA filter out of the vacuum and place it in a plastic trash bag, Seal the bag and dispose of it in an outdoor trash can. If you have a bagless vacuum, wash the dust collection bin in hot, soapy water immediately after vacuuming.